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The Future in Proton


Collaborative clinical research continues at Loma Linda University Medical Center through participation in cooperative groups and in collaboration with other proton therapy investigators in the Proton Radiation Oncology Group. Loma Linda University Medical Center investigators are working on several protocols, including those for lung, breast, esophagus, liver, and bladder cancers.

New robotic arm with pod attached

In the short-term, a new robotic machine (shown on the left) will be deployed in Gantry 1 at LLUMC with a “pod” that is permanently attached to the robotic arm. The arm can be moved in any direction three-dimensionally. Individual patients only need to have an “insert” put into the pod to be comfortable.

New robotic arm with pod attached




This new robotic system will deliver Proton therapy more accurately than ever before, along with new imaging techniques. The photo on the right shows what a patient being treated with the new robotic system looks like. Delivery can be achieved at literally any angle for precise treatment. It may also be possible to begin treating breast cancers with this new system. Dr. Jerry Slater speaks of future developments in the accuracy of delivery that may even achieve the treatment of specific areas of the prostate rather than having to treat the entire prostate. This, of course, has the potential to be even less risky, in terms of side effects, than current proton treatments—which already have a very low rate of side effects.

At the Loma Linda University Research Institute, the benefits of protons are being extended beyond the local tumor site. By combining proton treatment with other treatment modalities, including monoclonal antibodies, a biologic modifier, cytokines and radiation enhancers, the advantages of protons may be expanded to benefit patients with more advanced diseases. Investigations into the potential of protons for treating patients with non-tumorous diseases characterized by abnormal functioning cells are also being carried out.

Planning Treatment

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Loma Linda University Medical Center’s Proton Treatment Center formed a research partnership in which the proton facility will enhance radiation research in space. This important work will also allow NASA researchers to understand how radiation affects personnel and scientific equipment traveling through deep space.

The five-year agreement for the Loma Linda University/NASA Radiation Research Laboratory focuses on the use of the proton facility to simulate the proton environments of space, including solar flares and the Van Allen radiation belts. Learning how to protect astronauts from such hazards is critical, particularly in missions that would take astronauts back to the moon or the planet Mars.

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